The mixed picture that is the local economy saw new numbers this week underscoring the durable and enviable power of Wichita as an exporter.
Wednesday’s Eagle reported that while the Wichita-area economy was growing by a small 1.4 percent last year, making it the nation’s 79th-largest metro economy, Wichita’s $7.7 billion in exports made Wichita the third-most export-dependent economy in the country. According to a Brookings Institution study, Wichita trailed only Baton Rouge, La., and Ogden, Utah.
Though Wichita was in the top spot in Brookings’ similar study of 2010 data, exports accounted for 20 percent of the area’s economy then. Last year they reached nearly 30 percent.
And it wasn’t all about airplanes in 2012 (though a dominant $4.5 billion was). Wichita’s export growth also was furthered by agricultural machinery ($461 million), petroleum products ($343 million), chemicals ($211 million) and agriculture ($166 million).
Though export growth slowed as of 2009 – down to 5.1 percent a year, compared with 8.5 percent annually between 2003 and 2008 – it still saw more than twice the growth of Wichita’s economy as a whole.
Wichita’s stature as an exporter should bolster and guide economic development efforts. Clearly, Wichita still produces what the world wants.